Nattokinase is a potent enzyme that has a range of potential health benefits.
Nattokinase is popular in Asia and is used for heart health.
In this article, we will look at the health benefits of nattokinase, its safety, and its history.
Table of Contents
What is Nattokinase?
Nattokinase is an enzyme that is extracted from natto, a traditional Japanese food made from soy.
Natto is a sticky soybean-based fermented food. It has a slightly bitter, earthy taste that some describe as similar to aged cheese. Natto consumption is believed to be a significant contributor to the longevity of the Japanese population
Nattokinase was discovered in the 1980s by Japanese researcher Dr. Hiroyuki Sumi. He found that nattokinase had the ability to dissolve blood clots.
This discovery led to nattokinase being studied for its potential use in treating heart disease.
As part of alternative medicines practice, nattokinase has been used for the following:
- Deep vein thrombosis
- Hypertension (high blood pressure)
- Myocardial infarction (heart attack)
- Peripheral artery disease (PAD)
- Varicose veins
Clinical research backs up some of these uses.
Health Benefits of Nattokinase:
There are many purported health benefits of nattokinase. Below are the top research-backed benefits of nattokinase.
1. May Help Atherosclerosis
Research shows that nattokinase may help to reduce the hardening of the arteries.
Atherosclerosis is a disease in which there is a build-up of plaques inside arteries. This can lead to a heart attack, stroke, aneurysm, or blood clots.
A clinical trial involving 76 adults with atherosclerosis reported that participants given 150mg daily of nattokinase over 26 weeks experienced a 36.6% reduction in arterial plaque compared to only 11.5% in those given a 20mg dose of simvastatin (a popular statin drug).
Another human clinical trial involving 12 individuals found that nattokinase worked to increase blood fibrin/fibrinogen in the blood, which is important for reducing blood clotting.
Nattokinase’s mechanism of action is not yet known. Early studies indicate that nattokinase increases thrombolytic activity (i.e. the breakdown of blood clots).
Summary:An early study indicates that nattokinase may help to reduce atherosclerosis. Additional large-scale human clinical trials are needed to verify these effects.
2. May Reduce Blood Pressure
Nattokinase benefits the body’s ability to regulate blood pressure. Specifically, nattokinase has been shown to help reduce elevated blood pressure.
High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, is clinically defined as having blood pressure over 130/80. If untreated over long periods of time, elevated blood pressure can lead to a heart attack.
A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial involving 86 participants with hypertension found that nattokinase helped to reduce blood pressure. The nattokinase group was given 2,000fu (fibrinolytic units) of nattokinase each day. The researchers found that the nattokinase group had a -5.55mmHg decrease in systolic and -2.84mmHg decrease in diastolic blood pressure.
The researchers commented that these findings suggest that increased intake of nattokinase may play an important role in preventing and treating hypertension.
Another randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial found that nattokinase helped to reduce blood pressure in individuals with elevated blood pressure levels. The nattokinase group was given 100mg of nattokinase daily over the course of 8 weeks. The average reduction in diastolic BP in the nattokinase group from 87 mmHg to 84 mmHg was statistically significant when compared to the placebo group. The average diastolic BP remained constant at 87 mmHg for the nattokinase group. However, it should be noted that in males, the average diastolic BP dropped from 86 mmHg to 81 mmHg.
Summary:Clinical research indicates that nattokinase may be helpful in reducing elevated blood pressure.
3. May Reduce Blood Lipid Levels
Nattokinase has been linked to lower cholesterol levels.
High levels of blood lipids, known clinically as hyperlipidemia, increases fatty deposits in arteries and the risk of blockages.
A human clinical trial involving nattokinase and red yeast rice found that this combination was effective in reducing blood lipid levels. Significant decreases were seen in triglycerides (-15%), total cholesterol (-25%), low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (41%). It was also shown to increase HDL cholesterol levels by 7.5%. These changes were sustained until the end of the study.
A comparative study looked at nattokinase vs. statin drugs. The nattokinase group was shown to have reduced total cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, and triglycerides. They also had a statistically significant increase in HDL cholesterol (i.e. good cholesterol).
Summary:Small-scale clinical trials indicate that nattokinase benefits the body’s ability to reduce cholesterol levels, especially LDL cholesterol and triglycerides. Further large-scale trials are needed to verify these findings.
Nattokinase Safety & Side Effects:
As a derivative of soybeans, nattokinase is presumed to be safe for most individuals.
A 2016 safety study found that consumption of nattokinase is of low toxicological concern.
But that doesn’t mean that nattokinase is free of all safety concerns.
Since nattokinase can influence blood circulation and chemistry, it should be used with caution in certain groups, namely:
- Individuals with bleeding disorders – such as hemophilia, in whom nattokinase may make symptoms worse
- Individuals who take blood thinners – including warfarin, in whom nattokinase may promote bleeding and easy bruising
- Individuals with low blood pressure – nattokinase may cause lightheadedness, headaches, dizziness, and fainting
- Individuals on antihypertensive drugs – these include ACE inhibitors and calcium channel blockers, in whom nattokinase may intensify the drug’s effect, triggering hypotension
To minimize the risk of excessive bleeding, nattokinase should also be halted at least two weeks before a scheduled surgery.
Nattokinase should not be taken by children or during pregnancy or breastfeeding because of the lack of safety data.
There is no set recommendation for nattokinase, however, research suggests its health benefits come with an oral dose of 100 to 200 milligrams a day.
History & Traditional Use:
Nattokinase is an enzyme (a protein that speeds up biochemical reactions) that is extracted from a popular Japanese food called natto. Natto is boiled soybeans that have been fermented with a special form of bacteria called Bacillus natto.
Natto has been used as a folk remedy for cardiovascular health for hundreds of years in Asia.
Nattokinase, the chemical in natto that is probably responsible for its effects, was discovered in 1980 by Dr. Hiroyuki Sumi, a Japanese researcher at the University of Chicago. He discovered that natto can dissolve artificial fibrin. Fibrin is an insoluble protein formed during the clotting of blood. It forms a fibrous mesh that impedes the flow of blood.
Nattokinase is not present in other soy-based foods, because nattokinase is produced through the specific fermentation process used to make natto.
Nattokinase appears to be a safe and well-tolerated enzyme.
Common usage tells us that this herb is helpful for overall heart health.
It’s worth looking into nattokinase if you are looking to support your cardiovascular health. As always, make sure to consult your doctor before making any changes to your diet or adding a new supplement.